Klimkin: all NATO member countries working to free Ukrainian sailors

During the NATO summit in Brussels, among other topics, the priority was to discuss the realease of the Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia in the Kerch Strait region on November 25.

 “We will get back the ships, but for our sailors every hour in captivity is critical. Our allies, without exception, starting with the head of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, have already joined the process of their liberation,” wrote the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, on his Facebook page, after a meeting with the heads of foreign ministries of twenty-nine NATO member countries including Ukraine and Georgia.

At the meeting, the NATO member countries demanded that Russia open access to Ukrainian ports.

Earlier, Stoltenberg said that the NATO significantly increased its patrol of the sea and air spaces in the Black Sea region.

Foreign ministers of twenty-nine NATO countries began their last meeting this year, on Tuesday, December 4, in Brussels. The main subjects are the NATO’s reaction to Moscow’s violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Medium and Small-Range Missiles, the discussion of the Alliance’s cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia in the context of Russia's aggression in the Kerch Strait, and the situation in Afghanistan.

On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.

Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdiansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.

On November 28, the Kremlin-controlled court of Simferopol placed the Ukrainian sailors under 2 months of arrest – until January 25, 2019.

  Klimkin, Russia, Ukraine, NATO, Stoltenberg, Europe